A drunken driver who was traveling an estimated 111 mph in the pouring rain on a winding La Plata County road when he crashed his vehicle, killing a passenger and seriously injuring another, was sentenced Tuesday to 14 years in prison.
Justin Jobe, 35, hung his head when 6th Judicial District Judge Suzanne Carlson handed down a 12-year prison sentence for killing Logan Bratzler and two more years for injuring Isaac “Ike” Raidl.
He was facing up to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to vehicular homicide and vehicular assault, both felonies, in a plea agreement with the District Attorney’s Office.
The crash was reported about 12:40 a.m. July 31, 2022, on County Road 210, which accesses Lake Nighthorse southwest of Durango.
Jobe and his friends, all from Colorado Springs, were celebrating a bachelor’s party in downtown Durango. They were on their way to a rental house southwest of town when the crash occurred.
Based on a computer system built into the 2016 Chevy Silverado, Jobe was traveling 111 mph with the “pedal to the metal” when he failed to negotiate a right-hand curve near mile marker four and went off the side of the road, according to prosecutors. He hit two trees, causing the vehicle to spin, before it came to rest on its passenger side.
Raidl, the surviving passenger, said he pleaded for Jobe to slow down, but to no avail. He called Jobe’s driving behavior a “stunt, a way to show off.”
“I was not impressed, and I was scared,” Raidl wrote in a victim-impact statement. “Sitting there completely helpless, my voice had no impact, faster and faster, approaching the inevitable.
“... At a certain point it crosses a threshold and the unexpected becomes expected,” he wrote. “At an uncontrollable speed on that road, I expected us to crash, I could see it and I could feel it, and we did. Now, without reason, Logan is gone.”
Jobe told law enforcement he consumed a couple of vodkas with Red Bull and a couple of beers. A blood-alcohol test done one hour after the crash revealed he had a 0.226 blood alcohol content, which is about three times the 0.08 driving limit in Colorado.
Jobe, wearing shackles and a jail-issued jumpsuit, apologized to the court, the community and the families that were impacted.
He said he considers everyone involved in the crash a close friend, and no punishment will be as hard as what he has put himself through.
“Logan was my very best friend,” he said. “... I am extremely sorry.”
Several witnesses spoke on behalf of Bratzler, including his mother, sister, brother-in-law and a co-worker. Like Jobe, several people considered Bratzler to be their best friend.
Bratzler enjoyed motocross and worked as an investigator for criminal defenders and prosecutors. He had just completed his wildland firefighter training, and had gone on two deployments. He hoped to one day combine his two areas of expertise and work as a fire investigator.
He was described as somewhat of a prankster who could light up a room. He would add extra hot sauce to someone’s burrito, put fake piles of dog feces around the office and wallpaper an office with hundreds of pictures of someone’s antagonist.
“Without Logan, life simply is not the same for a lot of people,” said Troy Zook, a co-worker. “I’m sure your honor has seen a lot of close-knit families, and his is right at the top.”
Riley Bratzler, Logan Bratzler’s younger sister, said more than 400 people attended her brother’s celebration of life. She recalled going to brunch with her mother, waiting for a table when her mother received a phone call saying Logan had died in a car crash.
“Time stopped, I held my mom as her body gave in to the insurmountable grief and loss, I knew that there had to be a mistake, my brother couldn’t possibly be gone,” Riley Bratzler told the court. “I cried and screamed in agony for my mom and then for me. I could have never imagined a world without him. This moment plays on repeat in my head, every single night when I try to fall asleep, hearing my mother scream out for her firstborn child.”
She visited the crash scene Monday and still saw car parts littered along the rural road. She touched the bark of the tree where the car had crashed, knowing that is where her brother took his last breath.
She asked Judge Carlson to impose the maximum possible penalty.
“The defendant’s actions were beyond reckless, careless and completely avoidable,” she said. “His lack of concern for all passengers in the car is deafening.”
Jobe’s mother offered her “deepest sympathies” to the Bratzler family, saying she also misses Logan.
Jobe’s sister called it a “devastating situation” that has “rocked Justin to his core.” She said her brother will carry pain in his heart for the rest of his life. He made a fatal mistake, but he has taken responsibility for it and is dealing with it. She asked for the minimum prison sentence, so that Jobe can again become a productive member of society.
Prosecutors had charged Jobe with extreme indifference murder, a class 1 felony. Had he gone to trial and lost, he could have spent the rest of his life behind bars.
Assistant District Attorney Sean Murray said the murder charge was justified. The two passengers were pleading for their lives as Jobe drove in excess of 100 mph in the pouring rain on a narrow county road in the middle of the night, he said.
The vehicle’s internal computer indicated he had the gas pedal floored at the time of the crash, he said.
Murray rejected the idea that this crash can be compared to other vehicular homicides involving drunken driving in La Plata County, in which defendants have received significantly less prison time. He called it a murder case.
Public defender Benjamin Currier said the plea agreement allowed for far more time than what is typically seen in DUI vehicular homicide cases.
He asked Judge Carlson to take note of that, and to recognize Jobe’s level of remorse, willingness to accept responsibility, lack of criminal history and strong potential for rehabilitation. He asked for the minimum prison sentence, which would have been eight years based on terms of the plea agreement.
Defense attorneys also questioned whether the vehicle computer clocked an accurate speed, saying speed may have gone higher when the wheels left the road and became airborne.
In handing down her sentence, Carlson called it an “extremely serious case,” one in which a message needs to be sent that if people drink and drive and put others at danger, the penalties are going to be severe, especially when there are aggravating circumstances.
In addition to serving 14 years in prison, Jobe must pay $31,222 in restitution and will be on parole for three years. He will receive 245 days credit for time served.